It’s said one should not discuss politics or religion, mostly because it’s virtually impossible to convince anybody. All you do is get them mad. But I’m going to show you how to get through to people and help them (and you) discover the truth.
Politics and religion are fundamentally linked on an intimate level, so much so if you know how someone feels about one, you pretty much know the other without asking. You rarely find gay rights Christians or Republican Secular Humanists. [See my Conservatives are from Mars and Progressives are from Venus for details.]
When you find someone whose religious beliefs don’t match their political affiliation you’ll invariably also discover it’s because their personal view of their religion differs from the norm. “Christians” that support the Democratic Party are a good example. They’re invariably from the so-called “liberal” churches such as Episcopal, Methodists, Church of Christ and such-like that have a very different view of scripture, salvation and ethics than the more “traditional” Christian denominations such as Baptists, Catholics and Pentecostals.
Atheists say they “have no religion” but everyone has a religion. They may not go to church or believe in a god but religion is more than that. (Or maybe less?) I define religion as a worldview. Your religion answers the three basic questions of life:
Where did the world (and I) come from?
What am I supposed to be doing here?
How’s it all going to end?
Formal religions exist to answer all these questions. Using a foundation of how life originated and where it will end, they build from that a system of ethics. The ethical system is usually the most extensive part of any religion but it follows consistently from their view of how we got here. Judaism says they were set aside by a Creator God to be a separate people to preserve the scriptures and the bloodline of the coming Messiah. Therefore most of the religion (at least the parts outsiders see) involves customs and rituals to remind them to remain separate and to honor and remember the scriptures. A lot of these have grown to be rather ridiculous over the years, going far beyond the originals, but they’re still consistent with the core theme of Judaism. Nothing will keep you from assimilation better than a big bushy beard, weird black clothes and throwing rocks at people who drive on the Sabbath.
Atheism is just as much a religion as any other. Everybody knows where atheists think life originated (primordial slime) and where it will all end: nowhere. The fact Atheism has no god does not invalidate it as being a religion. Buddhists have no god either. And atheists do have religious duties, although those seem to consist mostly of trolling Christian web sites and suing to rid public spaces of every vestige of Christianity. [Note to atheists: the Christmas tree is a Norse Pagan symbol, not a Christian one. And while Santa once had a Christian origin, the current commercialized version is so subversively anti-Christian I’d think you guys would have adopted him as your mascot. But I digress.]
The point is: how a person thinks about politics and religion are inextricably linked to who they think they are, and how they believe the universe works. It affects every aspect of their life. This is why when you see someone who changes his or her religion in a radical manner, by finding “Jesus” or joining a cult, their personality sometimes changes. Certainly their lifestyle does. Often for the better as they give up drugs or drinking or the other habits that destroyed their life to the point they were forced to reconsider their worldview.
This is why it’s so frustrating to try to convince someone who disagrees with you. People are extremely resistant to changing their world-view because everything else they believe, everything they are, is based on that. They will generally refuse to even consider a change unless their life is in such a shambles because of it that the only other option is death. Because changing their worldview is exactly like dying – it’s the death of their old self, their old world, everything that gave their life meaning. And even if offered an obviously better alternative they cling to the old one because if they dump it they’re saying everything they believed in, everything they did, everything they were, up to that point was totally wrong. And people hate to admit being wrong. Most people won’t change their worldview until life drags them to that point kicking and screaming and they have no other choice but death. A few refuse even then.
Arguing is also futile for another reason. Arguing means debating the merits of facts and evidence. Checking sources, citing authorities, investigating claims, examining logic, all worthwhile efforts in the pursuit of Truth. Unfortunately, hardly anybody reached the religious/political viewpoint they currently hold by following that path.
Generally they were informed how things work by whoever brought them up and either stuck with the default programming, if it seemed agreeable, or if they didn’t like it for some reason, perhaps youthful rebellion or a lack of what they considered “reasonable” evidence (often because their mentor didn’t have any real reason to believe other than Grandpa told them it was true) they switched to something they liked better.
This is not to say that Grandpa’s religion (whatever it might be) provided no evidence of its veracity. Grandpa may have just been ignorant of the evidence, as many Christians are. Historically Christianity spent a lot of effort on such proofs. It’s part of their worldview. When you’re sent by your Creator God with a message to an unbelieving world, a message to persuade people to voluntarily accept, it’s pretty important to have some evidence to do the persuasion with. [Note to militant Secular Humanists: despite your paranoia to the contrary Christianity is a VOLUNTARY religion. Choosing Jesus is the whole point. Get it straight. Islam is the “convert or die” religion, not Christianity.]
So in arguing politics and/or religion (they’re really the same thing in the end) you’re trying to persuade someone to change their very definition of how the world works when they were never persuaded into that position in the first place. You’re trying to fight emotion with logic. It doesn’t work because you’re each speaking a different language. Your logical presentation of evidence contradictory to their belief is simply going to be seen as a personal attack. This is why people get so emotional discussing politics & religion. The whole subject is inherently emotional, not logical or reasonable. And the person on either end is just as likely to resort to emotional “arguments.”
And Atheists are generally no better. Their idea of a “reasonable” argument against Christianity generally devolves into accusing their Protestant foe of being personally responsible for burning 40,000 witches in medieval times and working to establish a worldwide Papal dictatorship. All the while standing for intellectual freedom by insisting that only their beliefs can be taught. [Read What Darwinists Don’t Want You to Know for examples.]
If you want to shout at people and get them angry with you, by all means continue to do what you’ve been doing. But if you want to persuade them, if you want to actually get them to think, there’s a way to do that.
You can’t persuade them of the falsity of their own position or the truth of yours. They take the position they do because they choose to. They are the only one who can persuade them otherwise. So how do you get them to do the persuading?
Instead of arguing “X is true because of evidence Y,” let them do the arguing. Let them try to persuade you. Then, like a Judo master, you use the leverage provided by their attack to turn it against them.
Asking why makes them have to employ logic and evidence rather than emotion. They have to explain rather than just answer your attacks with a defensive catechism of unsupported statements, incomplete “truths” and “self-evident” psychobabble.
Eventually if you keep asking why and their beliefs are not anchored on some actual truth they’ll get to that magical point where their only answer is “because it’s true.” Then you’ve got ‘em.
“So, you believe all that stuff because you decided to? You’ve got no reason, no evidence, no proof other than you just want to believe it? How can you base your whole life on something you have no actual proof for? Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. You might want to examine that life of yours. It’s got a pretty shaky foundation.”
Notice you haven’t been arguing them into your position but out of theirs. Once they begin to question their foundation, they’ll be open to something else. This is how deprogramming (and brainwashing) is done. The sensory deprivations and tortures just make it easier to get them to reconsider their original programming. And keeping them locked up traps them so they have no alternative to changing their worldview. But brainwashing doesn’t work on everyone. It’s only effective on people who hold to their beliefs only weakly.
Which brings up the effect of this subversive questioning. You may actually discover some pretty impressive evidence – maybe you’ll actually discover the REAL truth. Maybe their belief system actually is true! Maybe you’re the one who needs to change?
If not, when you get to the end and all they can say is “because it’s true” they’re either going to see for themselves the intellectual vacuum at the core of their beliefs – or more likely they’re going to limp away using the crutch of “faith.”
Now as a Christian I find Faith a wonderful thing. The Bible has all sorts of good things to say for it. Unfortunately, the meaning of “faith” currently being taught by most churches is not the one the Bible speaks about.
Typically when a Church-ian (as opposed to a Christ-ian) is asked if they have evidence for believing something and they don’t, they’ll reply “but I have faith.” Faith being defined, as one young skull full of mush in my Sunday School class put it, “believing in something you know isn’t true.” This is why Christianity today has lost all cultural relevance. If the core of your personal ethics is based on a warm feeling, why should I listen to you? How aggressive are you going to be standing up for the truth if all you have to stand on is a squishy feeling?
But this isn’t a criticism of Christianity but of Christians. That they often can’t defend their belief, doesn’t mean Christianity is indefensible, just that they’re too ignorant to know how. Churches today have done a terrible job of educating Christians. They’ve become Sunday morning entertainment venues, distributing donuts and good feelings rather than life-changing salvation and discipleship. [If you want proof and a solution, read my Spiritual Embezzlement Made Easy.]
The Book of Hebrews chapter eleven, verse one says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The Bible defines faith as “substance” and “evidence.” It goes on to give examples through history for why we should have faith in God. [A more thorough explanation of this is available in The Key to Happiness.] Someone who actually has real faith has evidence to back up their beliefs. [For such evidence read The Bible: Dead Letter of Message from Your Creator?]
Now, because you can’t duct tape them to a chair the people you trap with “why” who have no real faith for why they believe what they do probably won’t change their mind right then. They’ll change the subject or totter away on their crutch of faith (and avoid you like the plague thereafter.) But you’ll have planted the seed of doubt that will grow into a mighty tree that cracks the foundation of their worldview.
Just be careful. Socrates, the inventor of this technique, eventually ended up dead because he asked The-Powers-That-Be too many inconvenient questions. But at least he died knowing the Truth.
And the Truth will make you free.